Let’s take a look at the possibility that the Earth itself, when looked at from the perspective of the paradigm of a Living Conscious Universe, can be seen as a unified coherent living system with a kind of planetary consciousness.
The Gaia Theory: In the 1970s, the chemist James Lovelock proposed the Gaia Hypothesis, named after the Greek Earth goddess, Gaia. The Gaia Hypothesis proposed that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a system that contributes to maintaining the conditions for life on the planet. This means that life on Earth is a self-regulating system involving the biosphere, the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, and the pedosphere (skin of soil and living organisms), all of which are intimately integrated as an evolving complex system.
The Gaia Hypothesis has been modified and elaborated enough and there have been enough predictions made and confirmed that it has become the Gaia Theory, which now holds that the Earth evolves through a feedback system— including many processes essential for the conditions of life—that regulates the Earth’s surface temperature, surface composition, atmosphere, and ocean salinity, among other factors.
Acceptance of the Gaia Theory has become so widespread that, in 2001, a thousand scientists at the European Geophysical Union meeting signed the Declaration of Amsterdam, starting with the statement “The Earth System behaves as a single, self-regulating system with physical, chemical, biological, and human components.”
Originally, many Earth Scientists strongly criticized the Gaia Hypothesis, suggesting, among other things, that it involved a teleological explanation (rather than the type of mechanico/deterministic explanation favored by traditional science). Lovelock responded that “Nowhere in our writings do we express the idea that planetary self-regulation is purposeful, or involves foresight or planning by the biota.”
The Earth Is Alive: However, maybe Lovelock hasn’t gone far enough. It seems possible to simplify and strengthen the Gaia Theory if we apply the paradigm of the Living Conscious Universe. From this perspective, we can reformulate the Gaia Theory as “The Earth is alive and behaves in a purposive fashion with a type of evolving consciousness in order to pursue an environment optimal for life.”
Let’s take seriously the possibility that the Earth is in a transition that could lead to a new, higher level of organization and “interiorization” (as Pierre de Chardin proposed in the Phenomenon of Man), producing a new emergent consciousness. This transition may be like what happened when collections of individual cells evolved to form insects and plants and animals and, eventually, humans. And, these individual insects and plants and animals and, eventually, humans came to have relatively coherent consciousnesses that could guide the—now unified—collections of cells.
The proposed consciousness of the Earth would clearly be located at a place on the consciousness spectrum that is quite different from ordinary human consciousness or human consciousness as augmented by the technologies of traditional science.
There is significant evidence that people who train their consciousness, e.g. Yogic, Buddhist, Taoist, and Sufi masters in the Eastern metaphysical traditions, can reach and participate in wider portions of the consciousness spectrum, and, in some cases, touch the unique form of consciousness that is (beginning to be) manifested by the Earth. Certainly, very many Native traditions talk of Mother Earth and experience the Earth as a living conscious being.
Planetary Consciousness: The paradigm of the Living Conscious Universe may also be taken to suggest that groups have a kind of group consciousness, a group mind if you will. The psychology of crowds and the behavior of herds, flocks, hives, ant hills, and many other types of group behavior argue for this perspective.
If this is true, then it may be the case that the large group that is the human species has a type of consciousness. And the consciousness of humanity appears to be a key vehicle for the emerging new higher level of organization/consciousness of the Earth.
Right now the consciousness of humanity is fragmented and divided against itself. But if we quiet our minds, pay attention to our breathing, relax, look inside, and listen, perhaps we can participate in the consciousness of our species that is joining with the consciousness of the Earth to form an emergent Planetary Consciousness, where the deeper singing coming from our species joins in harmony with the great song of our planet.
We can see ourselves at a moment of crucial Planetary Transformation, when the Earth evolves to the point that it acquires an integrated consciousness—with humanity playing a critical role—that can guide the formation of a planetary civilization that is conducive to continued human life on Earth. It may be the case that we have the capability to reach down into ourselves, selves that are aspects of the Earth, and find the Earth calling to us showing us the ways to transform our own lives and the life of our species so that we can come to live at peace with Her.
And maybe, just maybe, we can actually connect with the emerging Planetary Consciousness that is a blending of the emerging unified consciousness of the human species and of the Earth. And maybe we can engage with this Planetary Consciousness to help it emerge further. And maybe we can take strength from it and use it to unite with and act together with the very large numbers of us humans that will be needed to work the work of the Great Transformation whereby we learn to live at peace with ourselves, with each other, and with the Earth.